PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Gov. Gina Raimondo announced Monday she has approved a plan she says will make it easier for workers who are on quarantine due to coronavirus to obtain unemployment and temporary disability benefits.
Raimondo announced the R.I. Department of Labor and Training’s emergency regulations at a Monday afternoon news conference where she also declared a state of emergency over the outbreak and laid out other steps she is taking to deal with the epidemic.
So far, only three Rhode Islanders have tested positive for the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, but roughly 300 are on self-quarantine. That number is expected to rise.
The emergency regulations announced Monday waive three rules:
• the seven-day waiting period to claim regular unemployment insurance or WorkShare short-term compensation;
• the seven-day minimum time to be out of work before qualifying for Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) or Temporary Caregiver Insurance (TCI) benefits;
• and the requirement for medical certification that someone is on a COVID-19 quarantine.
“The reality is, if you’re staying home for most people – for many people – that means you’re not getting paid,” Raimondo said. “And I understand that. I hear that. I hear you. So we want to do everything possible so that you get paid while you’re being directed to stay home because it’s good for you and it’s good for Rhode Island.”
The governor reminded residents about the state’s 2017 paid sick leave law, which requires most employers to provide up to five days of sick pay.
“I want to be crystal clear: employees who are placed under quarantine – even if they are not sick – are allowed to discharge these five days of quote-unquote ‘sick leave,'” she said. “That is also true if they are staying home to care for someone who is in quarantine, even if they are not themselves sick.”
Raimondo added, “I also want to be crystal clear to every employer out there. We are asking you to do the right thing. I know it’s expensive, I know it’s inconvenient, I know it’s a disruption. People who are sick or in quarantine have to stay home, they have to be able to stay home, they should be compensated to stay home, and their job should be there when they return.”
The Department of Labor and Training has posted more information about COVID-19 for employees and employers on its website. Individuals can also contact DLT at email@example.com or by calling (401) 462-2020.
Also Monday, Raimondo called on President Trump to issue a federal disaster declaration over COVID-19 in order to trigger the Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) program, which provides federally funded unemployment benefits to people who become jobless due to a disaster.
“No state will be able to handle this on its own,” Raimondo said. “I furthermore don’t think it’s right for the federal government to ask states to shoulder the financial burden associated with compensating employees who are taking sick time or who are home on quarantine.”
Anyone with questions regarding the virus can call the R.I. Department of Health at (401) 222-8022 or visit the department’s website.
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